The San Francisco 49ers won their tenth game of the season Sunday in Tampa, giving them three straight years of 10+ wins for the first time since the Steve Young era in the late ’90’s. One more victory or an Arizona loss will clinch the sixth Wild Card seed, while two more victories will earn them the fifth seed. For you wildly optimistic dreamers out there, two more wins coupled with two Seattle losses at home would push the Niners all the way up to the number two seed!
One week after an emotional win over the Seahawks, the team traveled cross country and surprisingly did not open the game in sleep walk mode. In fact, they controlled the game from the outset, taking a 20-7 lead into the fourth quarter. Six seconds into that quarter, however, Tampa scored on a 24 yard pass from Mike Glennon to Tim Wright and suddenly it was anybody’s ball game at 20-14.
What happened next might earn an award as the outstanding drive of the year. The 49ers ran off 17 plays, covering 77 yards, plus 15 more to overcome a ridiculous Michael Crabtree penalty for picking up a dead ball and heaving it into space, consuming ten minutes and 27 seconds before the drive finally fizzled at the three yard line, forcing the team to settle for a FG and a 23-14 lead.
The Bucs had a mere 4 and a half minutes left to overcome the nine point lead, but they fumbled the kickoff and Kendall Hunter snatched up the ball and stepped into the end zone and suddenly it was a 30-14 game. This TD drive took a mere six seconds. A ten minute drive and a six second drive and a six point lead became a 16 point lead and game over.
This is two straight games the 49ers have gotten the ball in the fourth quarter and improbably run out the clock. Six minutes against Seattle and ten against Tampa. Against Seattle, it was Frank Gore who delivered the big play with his 51 yard run, but against Tampa the final drive was all about Colin Kaepernick, who kept the drive alive with his feet and made some throws no QB in the league could make. The 14 yard pass to Crabtree on 3rd and 12 that began the drive (and overcame Crabtree’s idiotic penalty) was a side arm laser while running sideways and backwards. Scary good talent.
The 49ers don’t play again until next Monday night against Atlanta in what probably is the final game of the long and storied career of Candlestick Park. By the time they take the field for that historic event, Arizona will likely have been defeated in Seattle the previous day, putting the Niners in the playoffs and making the final two games of the year more or less meaningless. An early Christmas present. Sounds good to me.